Three late strikes at the LNER Stadium gave Michael Appleton’s Imps a comprehensive win – and means Bolton have now conceded 11 goals in just three games in 2020.
Hill freely accepts he needs to acquire a specialist left-back, having filled the position with three different players during 90 minutes, and that some of the players at his disposal are not ready for what is being asked of them.
“It’s a cruel world,” he said. “From a football perspective it was a hard watch first half, and the conditions didn’t help. Second half we changed it, left ourselves a little bit more vulnerable, but the intent was to go and score, which we did.
“But again, I am asking players to learn on the job and there’s a lot of them doing it. They have got to learn and they have got to learn quickly. Some of the mistakes made I would have said contributed to the third, fourth and fifth goal.
“It’s hard because I want to protect the players and I need them to learn and respond. They are trying their best to represent me and my values, they really are.
“We are having to make substitutions because there’s massive fatigue.
“Unfortunately it’s not a game for young players when we’re in the position we’re in, it really isn’t. I hope they learn, I hope they have courageous long careers and remember nights like this where you can have a 15-minute car crash as an individual and it has an impact on the end result.
“It’s a horrendous situation to be in, difficult for me as a manager, and I am trying my best to protect them and avoid frustration. My emotions spilled out Saturday but – and this is not being condescending, or having a go at anyone – I have got to realise that some of these players are not good enough to play but they are representing us, so I have to make them better. I can’t avoid but give them opportunities. That’s the harsh reality of it.”
Wanderers lost Yoan Zouma to a hamstring injury at half time and Hill had to bring off goal-scorer Darcy, who was suffering with fatigue and had been booked.
The changes appeared to accelerate the late collapse and leave Bolton nursing their seventh defeat by four goals or more this season, three of which have been under Hill’s command.
“It’s really difficult for the players because they are being used as a punchbag at the moment and that last 15 minutes was hard for everyone,” he said.
“I had to make a substitution, and it was my choice, but I brought Harry Brockbank on and he found it very difficult tonight. But he’ll get my full support.
“At 1-1 we had a few opportunities. We were a bit light in midfield when they had the ball, we were virtually 4-2-4, which is not a recipe for success out of possession. But with the conditions it was the right thing to do.
“It’s cruel down there, you get trodden on, spat at, but I still believe you have to smile and see a bit of clarity.
“If you listen to some of the chants from the opposing fans like: “You should have gone down with the Bury.” We are still alive, we’re still kicking, we’re still proud to be Bolton.
“The supporters were magnificent again and I think they see within due reason why we got beat tonight.”